Last Wednesday, the Alabama House Health Committee voted to send HB405, the so-called ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill which would effectively ban abortions and force women to undergo invasive ultrasounds to obtain an abortion, to the House floor. The video of their vote is above.
Although the bill is of course very popular with forced-birth activists in the state, it remains to be seen whether HB405 will receive a vote before Alabama’s 30-day annual legislative session closes. The Republican supermajority is also trying to fill an enormous hole in the budget, deal with a string of embarrassments related to gambling money in state politics, and decide whether to get Alabama out of the marriage license business altogether rather than let gay people marry.
Given so much to do, it’s not clear that there will be time for HB405 to receive a vote. Additionally, good sense may also play an unexpected role in killing the legislation: ‘fetal heartbeat’ bills have invariably been found unconstitutional by federal courts, and at a time of such extreme budget austerity, lawmakers may be unwilling to commit the state to paying for a doomed defense that will likely cost millions of dollars.
Nevertheless, HB405 underlines the fact that forced-birth and anti-birth control activism are the very first priorities of Republican governance in 2015. As Rachel Maddow explained at the top of her show last night, GOP legislators are falling all over themselves to pass new restrictions on reproductive rights, including access to birth control, by introducing over two hundred bills nationwide this year — a trend line that has been visible in Washington, DC as well.
The Republican-controlled US House has passed legislation to let employers in DC fire women who use birth control, and is reconsidering a ‘fetal pain’ bill that was tabled earlier this year over the objections of female Republican lawmakers. That legislation was just one of five new restrictive laws introduced by House Republicans during the first five days of the current session.
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